Bertoia was born in 1915 in San Lorenzo, Italy. Although best known as a sculptor and furniture designer, he began taking drawing classes in Italy before migrating to Canada and later Detroit in 1930. He attended the School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts in 1936, thanks to a scholarship, and the following year was awarded a teaching scholarship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where he taught metalworking from 1937-1942 and then graphics for one year.
Bertoia moved to Los Angeles to become a furniture designer in 1943 and in 1947 he created his first welded sculptures. He became an American citizen and was employed by Knoll Associates, who introduced the Bertoia Collection of furniture in 1952. The following year, the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan offered him his first commission for a large-scale sculpture and Bertoia turned in his resignation to Knoll Associates to concentrate on his sculpture.
He started making abstract monotypes in int 1940s, the same year he started exhibiting extensively. He has had his work honored with awards, such as the Gold Medal from the Architectural League of New York(1955-1956) and an honorary doctorate from the Lehigh University in Bethleham, Pennsylvania in 1976.